Thursday, August 23, 2012

Inspiring SportsGrrl Mo Isom

Mo Isom (photo from her Facebook page with her permission)
Mo Isam (full name, Mary Morlan Isom), a former star member of the Louisiana State University (my alma mater) women's soccer team, is defying naysayers and trying out for a walk-on kicker position on the championship LSU football team. If Isom makes the team, she will be the second female kicker, after Kate Hnida of the University of New Mexico, to play NCAA Division 1 football. LSU football coach Les Miles says Isom is a "good athlete and very strong applicant." If LSU welcomes her onto the team, Louisiana will have made another great stride away from its ugly history of discrimination. It might just surprise itself and the rest of the country, as it did by electing Bobby Jindal as the first Indian-American governor in the United States despite Louisiana's reputation as a place where, as the New York Times put it, "race is inseparable from politics."
This is Isom's second attempt to join the team. She's been invited to retry after missing the cut in March. Her efforts have garnered a wave of national attention, both positive and negative. Despite her sterling athletic career and LSU football coaches and athletes' public acknowledgment of her talent and support of her candidacy, critics question whether she truly wants to be a contributor to the team. They accuse her of pulling a publicity stunt. Others object outright to the presence of a woman on the team, either insisting that football is a man's sport or, patronizingly, fearing for her safety. (At 6 feet 1 and nearly 200 pounds, Isom would not be the smallest kicker in NCAA football. Also, she wouldn't even be involved in full contact situations.) Isom has also had to respond to claims that her presence would be a distraction from and to the team. Serious media outlets report that she "dresses modestly during practice, always in an oversized T-shirt and shorts and often with her hair pinned up," and that "[f]rom a distance, her size allows her to blend in easily with the rest of the players." Isom has had to reassure inquiring reporters that the team will never have to endure a workout alongside her "in short shorts or a sports bra."
Undeterred by all the denigrating questioning and criticism, Isom has spent the months since her first tryout intensively honing her skills. While it remains to be seen whether she'll make the cut this time, her training has certainly made her a fierce contender. The Times Picayune reports that in practice last week she kicked a 53 yard field goal, 9 yards farther than the career record of LSU starting kicker Drew Alleman. While recognizing that it would be "naïve . . . not to realize the odds are stacked against" her, Isom refuses to be bullied by sexism. Her words to live by:
“The only thing more dangerous than allowing others to put limitations on what you can achieve is allowing yourself to believe them.” 

1 comment:

Cheri said...

Love the story . Take umbrage at the New York Times for their comment about Louisiana politics & race. We're not exclusive on racism.